The Skeleton in the Grass (Bello)
The Skeleton In The Grass, reminiscent of Robert Barnard's much-acclaimed Out of the Blackout, illuminates an earlier time and place: a small English village in 1936, as Franco's troops are conquering Spain and Hitler's legions are preparing to overrun Europe.
The world at large may be sliding into the abyss of disaster, but life at Hallam, country seat of the glamorous and renowned Hallam family, still represents the ultimate in British civilization. Teatime, with its cucumber sandwiches and cream cakes, continues as it has for a hundred years.
It's not that the Hallam family ignores the world outside its gracious doors. On the contrary, Helen and Dennis Hallam care passionately about peace and principle, and Dennis dramatically conveys these views to the nation in his controversial weekly review column.
Avowed pacifists, Helen and Dennis represent a political stance that the villagers mistrust and fear. That fear and suspicion turn to nasty pranks when a sinister Fascist major gains control over some of the local youths. Helen and Dennis, and their sons Oliver and Will, become the victims of cruel taunts and the kind of teasing that leads to terror.
As the Hallams and villagers grow more hostile, we see the story through the eyes of Sarah Causeley, and idealistic young woman who has recently come to be nursery governess at Hallam. To Sarah, the Hallams represent beauty, brilliance, and style-an idyllic life in the midst of chaos.
But as she watches, the Hallams' world begins to disintegrate, and a tense and unexpected encounter leads to a shocking murder.
Much more than a crime novel, The Skeleton in the Grass is an extraordinary piece of fiction that captures the essence of a family that captures the essence of a family and a world on the brink of extinction. With subtlety and skill, Robert Barnard amazes with his versatility and storytelling power.